- By Native News Online Staff
WASHINGTON — Three federally recognized South Dakota Sioux tribes filed an injunction in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia on Wednesday to stop Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin from including Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) in the distribution of the $8 billion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act for tribal governments.
In the lawsuit, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe seek declaratory and injunctive relief in the federal district court to stop any funds going to the ANCs.
The lawsuits do not attempt to stop funds to tribal governments in Alaska, but only the ANCs, which the plaintiff tribes maintain are state-chartered and for-profit corporations, not tribes.
In the lawsuit, the Sioux tribes maintain the ANCs do not employ large numbers of tribal citizens or assist the local Alaska village economies. The United States does not recognize Alaska Native Corporations and Congress did not intend for corporations to be eligible for relief funds designed to assist government institutions; therefore, they should not reap the benefits of the CARES Act in such a substantial way, the filing states.
In a press release issued by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the tribes say “Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs (ASIA) Tara Sweeney, is recommending a grossly unfair allocation plan to the US Treasury Department.”
Sweeney, an Alaska Native and former executive at Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, an ANC based in Utqiagvik, Alaska, came under fire early last week when she disclosed she interpreted the CARES Act to include ANCs.
The Sioux tribes’ lawsuit argues ANCs constitute a minority of the indigenous population in the United States.
According to the last US Census, Alaskan Natives have a population of approximately 106,660, which is only 1.5 percent of the more than 6.7 million Native Americans living in the United States today.
The lawsuit also refers to a leaked spreadsheet document that included sensitive financial and demographic data about the tribes and ANCs. In the spreadsheet, all 12 Alaska regional ANCs and numerous village ANCs had allegedly submitted requests for Title V Coronavirus relief funds, based on population, land base, employees, and expenditures.
Using the leaked data, which has not been authenticated, the South Dakota tribes show a contrast between one of largest ANCs and the Cheyenne River and Rosebud Sioux tribes.
The lawsuit notes: “By way of example, the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, which encompasses Barrow and Point Hope, Alaska, claimed 13,021 members, 4,094,101 acres of the land base, 12,146 employees, and reported $3,706,885,000.00 in total expenditures for the last fiscal year.
“By contrast, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has roughly 22,000 members, 2.8million acres, nearly 900 employees, and approximately $112,000,000 in total expenditures for the last fiscal year, and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe has roughly 35,600 members, 1.26 million acres, 800 employees, and similar total expenditures.”
The CARES Act funds designated for tribes are due to be distributed on April 26, 2020.
The Cheyenne River Sioux is represented by Big Fire Law & Policy Group, based in Bellevue, Nebraska; the Rosebud Sioux Tribe is represented by the Native American Relief Fund (NARF)’s Anchorage, Alaska office; and the Oglala Sioux Tribes is represented by its own tribal legal department.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include additional information from the court filing.
Celebrating 10 years of Native News...
We launched Native News Online back in February 2011 with the belief that everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities. That's why the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers. We hope it inspires you to celebrate our first decade with a gift of $10 or more to Native News Online so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.